After the curtain falls and Barack Obama is no longer in the White House, there is no doubt that this last week of January will be among the most memorable of his presidency.
Teary-eyed and surrounded by relatives of victims of shooting massacres, the president announced a final push in his attempt to achieve something that has eluded most of his predecessors — putting an end to the unfettered firearms market in the USA.
Frustrated by the inaction of Congress in the last few years, the president laid out a series of executive orders, 10 in total, with which he will attempt to expand background checks and thus prevent rifles and guns from reaching the wrong hands — such as those of Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old man who suffered from mental problems and murdered 20 children in a school in Newtown, Connecticut.
"Every time I think about those kids it gets me mad … Each time this comes up, we are fed the excuse that common-sense reforms like background checks might not have stopped the last massacre, or the one before that, or the one before that, so why bother trying. I reject that thinking. We know we can’t stop every act of violence, every act of evil in the world. But maybe we could try to stop one act of evil, one act of violence,” stated an emotional Obama during a rare televised event that may be comparable only to the emotion shown by George W. Bush in the days following the terrorist attacks in Washington and New York on 9/11.
The president's proposal aims mainly at closing the current legal loophole that governs the selling and purchasing of firearms.
Currently, and in accordance with the 2nd Amendment, any American of legal age can acquire a firearm.
This is so common that even stores like Wal-Mart sell firearms, and it is estimated that at least 40 percent of the U.S. population possesses at least one gun — or more than one, since it is believed that about 300 million firearms currently circulate in a country with a population of about 320 million people.
Under current legislation, any business owner who wants to start selling firearms must first acquire a license. Furthermore, any person who wishes to purchase a gun from a licensed business, such as Wal-Mart, is subject to a background check aimed at establishing if there is a criminal, or even medical, record that may bar that person from purchasing a weapon.
In 2014, for example, more than 20 million purchases were made that underwent a background check.
The Legal Loophole
The problem — that is to say, the loophole — is that the law does not specify whether this standard applies to the selling or exchange of firearms online, on a person-to-person basis, or at informal events such as gun shows. The existence of this loophole means there is a parallel commerce taking place where background checks are not required, and in which about 10 million firearms are bought and sold annually.
What Obama's executive action does is to force sellers, including those online as well as those in gun shows, to obtain a license to sell.
In doing this, the White House argues, background checks would be expanded, and a practice that is currently in the shadows would take place in the light of day. Additionally, Obama's measures call for 200 new public officials tasked with licensing procedures and background checks.
Moreover, the database used by authorities would be updated; more people would be included in the database, along with medical reports indicating drug consumption or mental problems.
This week, Obama insisted that his plan does not seek to limit a citizen's access to firearms, nor does it attempt to put a stop to the purchasing of assault rifles and other high-caliber weapons. He said, quite simply, that persons with criminal or mental records should have no access to firearms by taking advantage of a loophole in the system. The problem with Obama's proposal, and most analysts agree on this, is that it lacks teeth.
Many of his measures, according to Philip Dacey of the National Association of Firearms Collectors, require a budget in order to be put in place. "And that is something that this Republican-controlled Congress won't give him,” he states.*
Some of Obama's other actions are mere recommendations aimed at federal agencies, which do not, however, expand the president's mandates nor demand new standards. And the little that's left over — that is to say, the requirement on all sellers to obtain a license — is going straight to the courts, where there's a big chance it will lose.
"Mr. Obama will now require that anyone who sells a gun, that is even an 'occasional' seller will be required to perform a background check. By defining what an 'occasional seller' is, the president is essentially interpreting the law, a job reserved for the courts,” and not for the executive branch, according to Judge Andrew Napolitano.
Most likely, this executive order will encounter the same fate as the one issued in 2014, which aimed to halt the deportation of thousands of immigrants, and whose effects were suspended by an inferior court and are yet to be reviewed by the Supreme Court.
Even if they survive a legal process, these orders could be stopped at once if a Republican were to reach the White House in November.
*Editor’s note: Accurately translated, this quotation could not be verified.